Posts Tagged Assistance

From ‘a dangerous wait’ to ‘weightless service’

Introduction

Student Assistance Programs (SAP) go a long way in addressing the concerns mentioned in Meg Bryant’s excellent article: Survey: Colleges struggling to meet mental health needs of students based on a recent report from STAT titled “A dangerous wait: Colleges can’t meet soaring student needs for mental health care.” Ms. Bryant brought up many issues: access, limited sessions, stigma concerns inadvertently setting students up not to be seen in a timely manner, high demand for service and limited resources, and finally the role telehealth may play in the future.

A growing problem

While the needs of university students have been recognized and provided for for years, the increased demand with a decreased stigma in accessing services and asking for help has led to a need for increased capacity for these services. There are many opportunities that moving to a larger, external network could afford.

Patient ratios

Many of the schools highlighted in the report had student:provider ratios that were quite high – ranging from the low end of 400:1 to over 1,500:1. While provider ratio alone does not determine quality or even capacity, it’s an indicator of potential. Given the average university size of approximately 4,200 students, MINES’ average student to provider ratio would be under 5:1.

Additionally, this breadth of coverage means increased specialization available to those students. MINES’ network can be searched based on type of provider, populations they work with, modalities of treatment, languages that they speak, and much more. This results in a better match in the provider/patient relationship from the beginning.

Fall-over capacity

Utilizing an external network also creates the ability to respond to increased demand on the university counseling staff for times when there is increased stress or pressure on the students, for example when there is a critical incident or even during midterms or finals when the added stress of accomplishment for the students may increase.

Integrated care

Using an external network also adds to capacity and expertise for referral after initial services are completed when a short-term therapy model will not resolve the issue the student is dealing with. Because MINES works with groups all across the country, with different health plans in place, our Case Management staff is adept at making referrals into those plans.

Student Health Plans

For some students with a university health plan, MINES can work directly with the plan to provide integrated care, supporting the other providers on the medical side of the plan with coordinated care planning and treatment adherence support.

ACA provisions

Following the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2009, coverage for children under their parent’s plan up to age 26 means that a student’s health plan may be more difficult to access given a student’s school of choice when that school is in a different state from where their parent is employed. With MINES national presence, we can work with these students to help them access those services on their behalf.

The SAP model

Student Assistance Programs are based on an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) platform. These programs are cost effective; however, they do have session limits similar to college/university counseling center programs. The advantage of a SAP program is that it can be a service extender of the counseling center under ideal budget circumstances. A SAP could replace a campus-based counseling center similar to EAPs replacing internal company programs. Why would this happen? It can bring greater access to the students with lower costs for the organization. Additional services are also provided in a SAP that many counseling centers do not provide such as legal/financial services, 24/7 access, sessions offered outside regular counseling center hours, and online access to resources. Telehealth services are also available in a SAP, further improving access to care. Most SAPs built on an EAP platform have much lower counselor to student population ratios. This allows for faster access for most of the issues or concerns for which a student may be calling. Finally, as the student does not have to go to the counseling center for the appointment, where other students may see them and make inferences as to their mental health, they can go to a therapist or counselor off campus and have greater privacy. This reduces the stigma reluctance some students may have.

Cost as a barrier to entry

While many of the programs listed in the report have some number of sessions covered for the students, most of them were limited to only a very limited number of sessions being free with a nominal cost thereafter. Even such a nominal cost, however, could be a barrier to continued treatment, especially as the costs of access to higher education continue to outpace the cost of living here in the United States.

Engaged students starts with engaged clients

MINES believes that, as is true for engaged employees, engaged students need to be engaged clients. This means approaching all of the elements to engaging in total wellbeing. We use the SAMHSA model for approaching this subject and even coordinate our regular communications with our employers around this model.

Using this as a starting point, we can tailor our interactions with individuals to help increase their capacity for creating healthier lives from each of these perspectives. With a holistic approach to therapy and coaching, we can work with an individual on many layers, increasing their health and wellbeing. This also allows us to begin engaging with an individual from one element and build trust to engage in other elements.

Reaching millennials

Millennials now make up the majority of students in higher learning institutions and there is a different set of expectations in working with this generation compared to generations before. Part of that change has to do with the use of technology, but what might be even more important than the technology itself is the way that technology can be applied to change entire models. There are examples of national suicide lines using texting to successfully intervene. Of course there are clinical limitations that need to be understood before SAP programs incorporate them to improve access.

Telehealth

Telehealth (which comes in many forms from texting a dedicated provider, requesting a prescription, or even videoconferencing!) has taken a major leap in recent years with legislative changes from state-to-state and technology companies attempting to pick up the slack in the emerging market. Millennials, in particular, want these solutions to improve communications with providers, for both qualitative and quantitative reasons.

New models

And telehealth also means new opportunities to change the traditional treatment model. With improved security (especially identity management) and mobile data capacity, these telehealth solutions could result in a greater reliance on asynchronous communications with students. Relying on higher frequency of communication with lower time needs per communication, the traditional 50-minute model no longer has to be the default for treatment, allowing the provider to engage in treatment at episodic highs and without needing to rely on waiting for the next appointment.

Further, while most mental health centers provide access to counseling, a Student Assistance Program can also have an expanded role for those students including financial coaching and legal assistance, which are typically included in an Employee Assistance Program. This is an even broader set of problem resolution options that could be made available to students.

Why we think we can help

We have a robust psychological services platform that could be applied to Student Assistance Programs. Furthermore, we already serve many college students through our Employee Assistance Programs and managed mental healthcare services under their parent’s benefits. By working directly with universities, MINES is well-positioned to provide more robust support to these mental health centers in serving their populations.

Want to learn more?

Reach out to us to discuss how MINES can help support your organization by calling 800.873.7138 or emailing us at info@minesandassociates.com

To your health,

Ryan Lucas
CIO

Robert Mines, Ph.D.
Chairman & Psychologist

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Health inSite: Social Media Access at Work

Let’s take a moment to discuss the great ‘Social Media at Work’ debate.  You’re familiar, I’m sure, with this concept.  It starts with a question like this:

“Why would we allow our employees to spend ‘work time’ doing things other than work?”

or another popular alternative,

“Do we want to allow employees to engage in social networking where they could release PCI (a play on PHI in the health world, Protected Health Information: Private Corporate Information).”

or the myriad other great arguments for canning social media in the workplace.

In 2011, MINES had the great honor of presenting at the EAPA International Conference on Wellness Programs where we posited an alternative to traditional wellness programs that relied on the value of social media with employees as a means to increasing adoption, bolstering adherence through social relationships, and positioning health as a social venture where people are spending increasing amounts of their free (and yes, even work) time engaging in health.  The core of most Wellness programs is similar to that of traditional EAP; a sort of ‘we’re there when you need us’ or ‘wait-and-see’ approach.  Wellness programs, however, often incentivize participation through monetary carrots or sticks.  This is a one-to-one approach to health.  Those of you that get to play with relational databases, however, recognize that there are many ways to connect entities (data, people, sites, etc.).

Social Media has the ability to act in a many-to-many way; that is, connecting me to my friend, and my friend’s friend, and all of us to an expert (be it a website, user, resource, or anything else) to engage on a topic.  This is an extremely powerful tool that is starting to be leveraged by a handful of companies – similar to the group therapy model where part of treatment is engaging with other individuals that are currently in treatment, rather than solely with the doc, therapist, CAC, or sponsor.

At the conclusion of our presentation, an attendee posed the following question during the Q and A:

“My company doesn’t allow access to Social Media at work, what recommendation do you have for a company that wants to consider leveraging Social Media but its’ employees don’t have access to it.”

The answer from our CEO went something like

“At MINES, we’ve created a culture wherein every employee is expected to do their best.  I trust that my employees are doing just that and see that they do their best every day and until I see different results, I trust my employees to not abuse the system.”

Let me take a quick moment to highlight this infographic from the University of Melbourne (et. al.) which highlights some of the points on this subject.  Restricting Social Media at Work has many great arguments on its side; potentially lethal viruses, decreased bandwidth (the tech kind, not the personal productivity kind), and even legal concerns regarding PCI.  Productivity is a really common go-to, however, and the others are extremely valid.  Further, I don’t have good arguments against them (besides increasing your company’s bandwidth, installing good anti-virus software, and educating your employees on safe browsing habits), so let’s talk about the increased productivity experienced by those with unfettered access to Social Media.  Could these quotes be right?

“Short and unobtrusive breaks, such as a quick surf of the Internet, enables the mind to rest itself, leading to a higher total net concentration for a days’ work, and as a result, increased productivity.”

That’s pretty interesting and kind of common sense when you think about it.  Looking to an interview with the guru of productivity, Tim Ferriss, on LifeHack is the argument that we should…

“Take frequent breaks and strive to constantly eliminate instead of organize.”

So, despite all of the many reasons to not allow employees onto these Social Media sites, here we see the interplay of increasing productivity by taking breaks, and Social Media as an opportunity to boost creativity and rest the mind.  It’s certainly interesting.

Keep in mind; we’re not suggesting that every company, organization, or government entity allow unfettered access to social media sites.  We recognize that many of the groups that we work with each day have significant and valid arguments to be made as to why they do not allow access from a workstation provided by their IT department; but most arguments are worthy of reexamination as new information becomes available and the growing trend in BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) will have significant consequences as well when it comes to the Social Media, or WILB (Workplace Internet Leisure Browsing), debates – a topic we’ll tackle in the next iteration of Health inSite.

To Our Health,

Ryan
Marketing

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Labor’s Community Agency – Pass the Hat

MINES has consistently and proudly supported the efforts of Labor’s Community Agency in Colorado.  We would appreciate it if you would consider supporting this very worthwhile organization as well.  Please visit Labor’s Community Agency – Pass the Hat to learn more about how you can help!

The MINES team

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School’s out for the Summer

Summer is Here!

Even though Alice Cooper’s 70’s hit “School’s Out for Summer” was released almost 40 years ago, it never seems to get old. I have heard it numerous times in recent weeks on the radio. Even iTunes downloads are up as schools close for the summer and kids celebrate.

Summer
means the fun begins for millions of children across America. Swimming, rec centers, movies, amusement parks, concerts, restaurants, and shopping malls are just some of the many areas that will get very busy. Parents have just completed frustrating and time-consuming searches for special daycare arrangements for children who normally are at school. If you are still having challenges finding help, don’t forget that many EAP’s (Employee Assistance Programs) such as MINES’ EAP offer a childcare concierge service. This service provides assistance in finding the help that is needed. EAPs are typically provided as a benefit through your employer.

Summer
also means graduations; kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school, trade schools, community colleges and universities. All children and young adults are going through transitions in their lives. While one would suspect there is more pressure on the high school student moving out and going to a university in a distant state, don’t forget the 5 yr old who is going off in the BIG Yellow bus to a school outside of Mom’s sight, for the WHOLE day.  These children, as well as their Moms, can have some anxiety dealing with these changes. It is not uncommon for a mother and child to speak with a therapist who can talk to them about dealing with the anxiety of these great new opportunities. MINES has a number of workshops and programs that are available through parent’s workplaces that will take the edge off of this anxiety before it becomes depression. MINES counselors, therapists and professionals can help to resolve these issues now before school starts again in the fall.

Summer
can also be a challenge financially. The children want to “do something” that costs extra money. Family budgets aren’t prepared for these extra costs. Family vacations are typically taken; and who hasn’t been on a vacation that didn’t cost more than budgeted?  And most importantly, many parents are unemployed or under employed due to these challenging economic times. MINES also has financial and legal assistance programs that can help resolve many types of financial challenges.
MINES is here to help make your summer less stressful, more meaningful, and most importantly, fun. Check out our website http://www.minesandassociates.com to learn more about what we can offer.

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